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AI is everywhere. Its use is discussed in the headlines, on social media, and around dinner tables. For some, the speed of AI acceleration is a concern, with many technology leaders calling for a six-month break in training new systems to better understand the impact of such tools. For others, AI is seen as the cornerstone of the fourth industrial revolution, the latest disruptive technology that opens up possibilities for new ways of learning, working and living that we have never experienced before.
Yet disruptive technologies are nothing new. They have been changing the way we live and work for decades. And these changes have not been without consequences, especially in the form of economic disruption and social unrest. Automation in manufacturing has streamlined mass production and reduced costs; Ecommerce platforms have changed the way we shop and do business; even online education has found new ways to offer flexible and affordable ways of learning, opening opportunities to millions of people around the world that were simply not available before.
Currently, much of the discussion about the impact of AI is based on conjecture. However, it is generally agreed that it will have a major influence on jobs and even has the potential to question the fundamentals of what work is. What is not understood is how AI will play out in society in the longer term. Like previous technological revolutions, will it create short-term disruption followed by long-term benefits, or will it catalyze new ways of learning and upskilling and help narrow the widening digital divide?
One thing is clear: unlike previous industrial revolutions, we now have access to a wealth of learning resources that can help educate people at scale, empower previously excluded communities, and help reduce workplace disruption .
History predicts: out with the old, in with the new
While it is prediction AI could replace the equivalent of 300 million full-time jobs, history predicts it has the potential to create new roles. To put this in context, in today’s labor market, 60% of workers have an occupation that didn’t to exist in 1940.
What is clear is that AI is at the center of the current workforce revolution. With the popular AI chatbot, ChatGPT, just launched last November, data from Coursera shows that as many as 80% of companies have already implemented the technology in their operations or have employees using the tool to streamline their workflows. improve.
Simply put, this is just the beginning. As AI integrates across multiple industries, it will generate a slew of new roles. Some will be an extension of existing functions, such as data science or cybersecurity, and some will be entirely new, such as prompt engineering. Soft skills, especially leadership, will be in high demand. It is more important now, but more difficult than ever to guide people through change and disruption.
Meanwhile, jobs will also be moved in this knowledge revolution, and instead of the lower-skilled jobs being most at risk, this time it’s the higher-paying white-collar jobs. To avoid becoming irrelevant, every employee must be able to add value beyond what an intelligent machine can do.
To support these changes in the global labor market while maximizing the opportunities of these new professions, individuals and the entire workforce must proactively learn new skills and embrace new ways of working. Online education and lifelong learning are the foundation of upskilling initiatives, giving people access to a plethora of resources, from micro-credentials to advanced degrees and professional certifications from trusted and reputable universities and industry partners.
With demand for AI expertise skyrocketing, data from Coursera shows that a whopping 67% of companies are actively seeking professionals with AI skills. This underscores the critical need for individuals to leverage the knowledge and tools of online education to transition seamlessly from declining occupations to the digital roles of the future.
Democratizing access to education with AI
This was recently announced by the British government AI White Paper, designed to drive responsible innovation and maintain public trust in this revolutionary technology. Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan stated that AI should be used to make the UK a “smarter, healthier and happier place to live and work”.
Regardless of the geographic location or socio-economic background of learners, AI-delivered curricula will democratize access to education, providing people with new opportunities to learn virtually as they adapt to changes in the labor market fostered by automation. In the context of these developments, educational programs powered by AI will transform student experiences from passive to interactive and immersive.
For example, consider personalization. AI can analyze the strengths and weaknesses of individual learners and their preferred learning styles to create tailored learning paths similar to a classroom experience. This allows students to access educational content tailored to their specific needs, pace and interests, making learning more engaging and effective. AI-powered adaptive learning platforms can also continuously assess student progress and provide real-time feedback so they can focus on areas that need improvement.
Of course, AI won’t completely replace teachers or the value of the living experience, but not everyone has access to it. With AI-powered online learning, it is possible for every student to have an AI teaching assistant available 24/7, providing just-in-time contextual reminders to help them loosen up or re-explain a concept. These advancements herald a new chapter of learning that will help level the educational playing field.
Preparing for the real digital economy
While previous industrial revolutions and disruptive technologies have arguably driven a wedge between those at the top and those at the bottom, AI has the potential to democratize the way we live, work and learn.
To truly close the world’s digital divide and embrace the next secular technological shift, educators, governments, businesses and individuals must work together to ensure that AI is implemented inclusively and responsibly.
Only then will we unlock the true power of this technology, preparing our workers for the digital economy while creating a fairer and more just world for all.
Hadi Moussa is VP EMEA for Coursera.
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